Women and the Prison Industrial Complex

In recent years in most countries, especially the United States, incarceration rates have grown significantly. Although most of the inmates are still men, generally the female portion of this enlarged prison population has been rising at an even faster rate. Globalization has helped fuel this explosion, as consequences of free trade agreements and the international war on drugs. Because of free trade agreements, manufacturers produce their goods in low wage countries.

Women are the most likely to be impoverished because of this practice and many are susceptible to becoming low level drug couriers to augment their income. Mothers Reclaiming our Children was established in Los Angeles as a political action group to combat the racism of the LAPD in questionable use of force cases against blacks and in uneven application of laws such as the “three strikes” law where blacks would be charged but not whites in identical circumstances.

Other similar political action groups have been formed in cities and countries around the globe, because of similar oppressive and biased policies and judicial systems. Queering Anti-Prison Work discusses the need to consider the effect of sexual orientation when studying the factors making women vulnerable, both as criminal victims and instigators of certain types of crime, such as prostitution, drug use and theft. Sexual orientation adds another layer to exploitation inducing factors such as poverty, race and gender.

Governments around the world have tried to cope with demands for law and order by building more prisons to house convicted felons. Then under severe financial restraints, they have resorted to privatization of prison construction and operation. Most women are incarcerated for relatively minor nonviolent offences such as drug couriering and use, theft and prostitution precipitated by poverty resulting from globalization and continued subjugation to male domination.

Rather than build more prisons and legislate more crimes, I believ it is time to rethink who we really need to incarcerate. I suggest this should be limited to violent offenders. Other offences should be dealt with by community service, compensating the victim, therapy, and social policies designed to alleviate poverty, gender disempowerment, and other social problems that encourage these offences. References 1). Sudbury, Julia. “Feminist Critiques, Transnational Landscapes, Abolitionist Visions. 2) Kamppner, Christina Jose “Las Mujeres Olvidadas (Women In Mexican Prisons)

3) Catto, Juanita Dieiz “Latinas and the War on Drugs in the United States, Latin America and Europe” 4) Periera Da Cubba, Josie “From Neighborhood to Prison. Women and the War on Drugs in Portugal 5)Sudbury, Julia “ Mules, Yardies and Other Folk Devils. Mapping Cross-Border Imprisonment in Britain 6) Wilson Gilmore, Ruth “Pierce the Future for Hope. Mothers and Prisoners in the Post-Keynsian Landscape” 7) Richie, Beth “Queering Anti-Prison Work. African American Lesbians in the Juvenile Justice System